Gates Foundation Gift to Broaden UW Law School Public Service Mission
A $500,000 gift to the UW School of Law from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has led to the development of a centralized hub for all public service and public interest programs at the law school. The gift expands opportunities for students and reinforces public service as a core value of UW Law.
Activities include providing public service advising for law students and alumni, supporting student organizations focused on public service/interest, enhancing collaborations with legal services and community organizations, and administering a pro bono honors program and the Gates Public Service Law Program.
"We at the UW School of Law have long recognized the important role our students, alumni, and faculty play in promoting justice and service to our community," said Dean Kellye Testy. "This generous and forward-looking gift from the Gates Foundation will provide us with the resources to broaden our reach and achieve our goal that every UW law student embraces public service as a core part of the profession."
Changes include the creation of an Assistant Dean for Public Service position, to be filled by Michele Storms, the director of the Gates PSL Program. The funds will also support hiring an additional attorney staff person to work with public service-minded students and alumni. Great news for UW Law School!
New Gates Scholar Class of 2013!
Flor is a West Point graduate who comes to law school after an eight year career in the Army. As an infantry company commander in the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, Flor was responsible for leading security operations with his soldiers and Afghan police and provincial governments. Military operations moved swiftly and efficiently, but were often met with resentment by the Afghans they were trying to help. At the same time, NGOs could earn consistent Afghan support, but were stymied by lack of resources or slow decision processes.
"After spending 27 months in Afghanistan and Iraq," said Flor, "I am convinced we need broadly educated and experienced leaders to operate successfully in the space between rushing to failure with bad information and waiting until failure for perfect information." Flor realized that someone who had military and combat experience coupled with a law degree would be well positioned to more effectively employ elements of defense, diplomacy and development. Flor hopes his legal education will lead him to a career in helping conflict-stricken communities establish and reinforce culturally compatible Rule of Law.
With degrees in biology, biophysics, and physiology, Gusman was well on her way to pursing a medical career when a trip to South Africa inspired her to become a physician who would be a champion for the poor.
"I played with children who lost parents who could have been saved with proper medical care," said Gusman, who earned her bachelor's degree from Virginia Tech. "I spoke with doctors who were frustrated with a medical system that saw patients as dollar signs, not human beings."
Fast forward a few years, when Gusman was majoring in biophysics at Georgetown University. She was sitting in a health law class when her professor said, "Put a good person in a bad system, and the system wins hands down." Gusman realized at that moment that all the best doctors and medical advances could never solve the disparities in health and medicine around the world – it would take changes in laws and legislation. That's when she was inspired to go to law school.
Currently working with the inner-city HIV population in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Gusman plans to pursue both a J.D. and Master's in Public Health at the UW.
Sarah Lippek has worked with marginalized communities, including homeless youth and injection drug users, in Seattle and New York. In Seattle, she served as a street outreach worker, a volunteer coordinator, and as director of a youth shelter. In New York, Lippek implemented the first syringe exchange in Queens, collaborating with drug users to disseminate health information through their existing social networks. Like many of the other Gates Scholars, Lippek saw time and again that social services could only go so far.
"Legal reform can address the ways poverty is created and maintained in our society. Justice requires redistribution, not only of resources, but of authority and responsibility," she said. "Legal training will help me pass along valuable tools to people who might not otherwise have access to them."
Lippek earned her bachelor's degree through the CUNY Baccalaureate for Unique and Interdisciplinary Studies in New York City, and her Master of Arts from Central European University in Budapest. Now, she's thrilled to have the opportunity to attend law school at the UW.
"I like that law is a versatile tool – a legal degree is a technical degree, and can make you more effective in many different situations. That's one of the reasons I'm very excited about attending the University of Washington."
From the time his family emigrated to the U.S. from the Soviet Union when he was five years-old, Yurij Rudensky's family instilled in him a sense of social justice and the importance of education.
"My parents would remind me and my siblings that, in the U.S. you could pursue things that you couldn't do at home," he said. "One of those things was the ability to work toward the common good."
As a result, even before he attended Yale University, Rudensky knew he would pursue public service work, possibly public interest law. He decided that the best way to choose the right direction to go was to go get some experience.
He started out as a volunteer and then was hired as the program manager of the Housing Justice Project run by the King County Bar Association, which provides representation to low-income tenants facing eviction or other landlord/tenant problems. His experience taught him how difficult life quickly could become for families living on the brink of homelessness.
"Housing should be viewed as a right, not a public benefit. There is no way someone can go through a family legal dispute or fight immigration issues, for example, without housing."
Rudensky hopes to put his law degree to work transforming the court system, especially as it relates to housing and consumer protection.
Michael Windle leaves a position as a case manager for HIV-positive homeless adults in Seattle to come to UW Law. He talks about one client who has abused "every substance he acquires" and smells like urine. Another client he describes as having an "affinity for ethanol and distaste for clothing." These clients are why Windle, a Seattle Pacific University graduate, wants to become a lawyer.
"So many of my clients are in a Catch 22 situation," he said. "They have to have housing to address the mental illness which fuels their substance abuse. But, addiction keeps them from having stable housing or medical care." Policy change and legislation, said Windle, is one way to provide solutions to these much larger problems that direct care cannot address.
Windle, who will pursue a Master's in Public Health in addition to a J.D. while at UW, knows from experience that homelessness and substance abuse is not just a U.S. problem. The son of missionaries, Windle grew up in Bolivia and saw that the same problems could be found on pretty much any street of any city in the world. Only, in the developing world, there are little or no programs, resources, or legislation that work to prevent them.
Windle's dream job, he said, would be to work with policy makers around the world to establish global mental health and chemical dependency care.
Events this Year
We had several excellent speakers in the Gates Public Service Law Speaker series during this academic year. A few of the Gates Scholars have taken the time to share their reflections on some of the speakers they heard this year.
Law & Empathy
by Ariana Flores, Gates Scholar Class of 2012
Critical Race Theorists and professors at Seattle University School of Law, Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, visited the University of Washington on February 1, 2010. The nationally renowned scholars gave a lecture for the Gates PSL Program Speaker Series on the role of empathy in society and its importance in molding our relationships with and ideas about various communities.
The speakers began by describing how biases against particular groups have developed over time and have been manifested in the legal sphere in court decisions that both created and upheld various forms of institutionalized oppression. With allusions to prose from several eras and descriptions of films which portrayed women, African Americans, and Latino and Asian immigrants as deviants, violent aggressors, or as incapable, shiftless, or lazy individuals, the speakers began to craft for their audience the context within which jurists have viewed and subsequently made decisions to adversely affect members from those communities.
The scholars explained how an inability to relate to the negative experiences of our fellow members of society has resulted in policies and court decisions that further oppress the most vulnerable. Delgado and Stefancic cited landmark cases to explain how the legal profession has failed various constituencies throughout history. They described the callousness illustrated in the language of Dred Scott v. Sanford; the disconnect in the rationale of Bowers v. Hardwick; and the inhumanity of the decision in Korematsu v. United States. Each of these disgraceful decisions, they argued, all of which were later reviled, is rooted in the blatant lack of empathy for the disempowered people before them. The lecturers used these decisions as reasons for empathy in the public policy realm; providing multiple examples of how the U.S. has lagged significantly behind Europe on issues of reproductive rights, the death penalty, environmental protections, and workers' rights.
Attempting to relate to those quite unlike oneself is not a practice that everyone engages in; however, as Professors Delgado and Stefancic see it, the communities that have been most subjugated, marginalized, and oppressed by our legal system would be better served if more judges and lawyers chose to engage in this very process.
Principled & Fearless
by Meena Jagannath, Gates Scholar class of 2010
The line of people waiting to hear Judge Baltasar Garzon of Spain snaked through the long corridor of William H. Gates Hall. Human rights advocates, law students and members of the Ibero-American community stood eager to be a part of the rare and exciting opportunity to attend a lecture by this distinguished judge who has spent and risked his career leading the fight against impunity. The University of Washington Law School was proud to host Judge Garzon on his first visit to Seattle this February 23, where he spoke to an audience of nearly 400 people filling two rooms. The University of Washington Departments of History and of Spanish & Portuguese Studies were co-sponsors.
Judge Garzon's approachable, yet solemn, demeanor matched the weightiness of the issues he has confronted in his life's work. In a speech touched with a note of melancholy, Judge Garzon censured the use of amnesty and official pardons to avoid investigation as to a given regime's record of abuses, noting that such mechanisms work to erase and reshape people's collective and individual memories. His heavy tone was not without reason: recently, Judge Garzon himself had come under scrutiny for his own endeavors to investigate the crimes committed in the era of Francisco Franco and the Spanish Civil War. At the time of his speech, he was still awaiting the decision from the Spanish General Council of the Judiciary in the case against him. However, this spring, Judge Garzon was lamentably indicted for abuse of authority and suspended from his duties as judge for having dared to pierce beyond the amnesty laws and inquire into the disappearances of individuals during the Franco regime in Spain.
This decision is an undoubtedly forceful blow against the human rights movement's push to combat impunity by challenging amnesty and pardon laws, and by upholding the moral force of an international system of criminal justice, where each country has the power, and indeed the obligation, to prosecute grave human rights abuses wherever they go untried. Judge Garzon, as reflected in his speech and in his work, has fiercely championed the relatively new concept of universal jurisdiction—and his recent indictment is evidence that the current global landscape has yet to evolve to overcome the political forces that continually seek to stifle historical memory.
Yet, unfortunate as Judge Garzon's fate may have been, his speech and his actions continue to serve as inspiration for human rights advocates and supporters of accountability and the rule of law. Judge Garzon is widely known for his prosecution of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, but his work in support of human rights extends much further, including initiating an investigation into the United States' torture practices at Guantanamo Bay, and the prosecution of Argentine officials responsible for crimes against humanity. By tirelessly leading the march in promoting universal jurisdiction and a global sense of responsibility for the victims of human rights abuses, Judge Garzon exemplifies what we should all aspire to be: principled and fearless in the struggle to promote justice, end impunity, and bring justice to victims of human rights abuses, wherever they may be.
Insights on the US Supreme Court
by Wyatt Golding, Gates Scholar class of 2011
On May 3, Linda Greenhouse brought her thirty years of experience reporting on the U.S. Supreme Court for the New York Times to UW Law for an informal lunch and Gates Public Service Law Speaker Series talk. During the lunch, she chatted with a dozen law students about the future of journalism, personal insights on the present and past justices, and the importance of a writing program to a legal education.
For her afternoon talk, Ms. Greenhouse spoke with resident Constitutional Law expert Professor Stewart Jay about highlights of her years covering the Court and her upcoming book co-written with Reva Siegel, titled Before Roe v. Wade: Voices that Shaped the Abortion Debate Before the Supreme Court's Ruling. She reiterated her written position against the Arizona immigration law, predicting that if considered it would be overruled based on preemption doctrines.
As a New York Times and Supreme Court junkie it was a double thrill to meet Ms. Greenhouse. I have enjoyed her newfound freedom as a blogger to express her personal opinion, which she carried over to her conversation with UW Law. Ms. Greenhouse combined her unmatched depth and breadth of experience with a frank willingness to discuss the inner workings of the Court, which provided students with a window into both the historical arc of the institution and its day-to-day human element.
Ed. note: Special thanks to UW Law Professors Eric Schnapper and Stewart Jay and to the WSBA Council on Public Legal Education for assistance in facilitating this event.
Kudos to Gates Scholars
Gates Scholars have had a busy and successful year. We are proud that these students are passionate about public service, academically strong and engaged in the community. Here are a few highlights of recognitions received by Scholars in the past few months.
Mike Felton,a rising 2L was instrumental in working with other law students and alums to help create a new student group this year, the Education Law Society. They kicked off their new group by planning and executing an excellent panel and discussion on May 10, Equity in Education: Race, Class and the Race to the Top.
Rising 2L Hilary Hammell was awarded the 5th Annual Sarah Weddington Writing Prize by The Law Students for Reproductive Justice and The Center for Reproductive Justice. Her paper "Is the Right to Health a Necessary Precondition for Gender Equality?" has been accepted for publication in the NYU Review of Law and Social Change for their upcoming symposium edition on reproductive justice in the Fall of 2010.
Lillian Hewko has been appointed to the Law Students for Reproductive Justice National Board of Directors. Her term began June 1 and will continue throughout her third year of law school next fall.
Katherine Kirklin, along with UW Law student team partner Heather Griffith won first place in their ladder of the 1L Appellate Advocacy Competition. Their brief placed third and Kirklin won the Best Speaker award.
Gates Scholar alum Emily Alvarado (UWLS '09) published a guest commentary in the HeraldNet of Snohomish County entitled: "Everyone deserves a safe, decent, affordable home." http://bit.ly/bfZayj Alvarado is an Advocacy Coordinator at the Housing Consortium of Everett & Snohomish County.
What's up for the summer?
As always Gates Scholars will do their summer public service internships all over the nation and at points around the globe. Several Scholars will work in Washington State. Joan Altman will work in the torts division of the Washington State Office of the Attorney General; Rebecca Watson will join the Northwest Justice Project's Medical-Legal Partnership. Wyatt Golding will intern at the Seattle Federal Public Defender while Lillian Hewko has been selected as an intern at Legal Voice (formerly Northwest Women's Law Center).
Meanwhile In the "other" Washington, Katherine Kirklin will work at the US Department of Justice Environmental and Natural Resources Division. Mike Felton will also spend the summer on the east coast working at the Maine Office of the Attorney General. Moving south, Ariana Flores will be in El Paso at the Texas Civil Rights Project. Further south, Hilary Hammell will be in Mexico City working for the Gender Equity Program of the Supreme Court of Mexico while Nick Marritz heads to Bogotá Columbia to work for the Solidarity Center. To the far north, Miranda Strong will work at the Alaska Department of Law-Civil Division. Finally, through our Gates Program funded grant to the UW student-run Public Interest Law Association (PILA), UW Law student Dylan Tessier will work this summer at the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project in Seattle. We are very proud to support students doing such incredibly meaningful work locally and globally as they acquire the skills to become excellent lawyers. This is a true win-win situation, with benefit to the budding advocates but most importantly a benefit to the clients they will serve.
Public Service – Looking forward
The additional gift from the Gates Foundation and the centralization of public service at UW Law is an exciting and positive development for the law school. As we centralize our efforts under one umbrella, we will continue to provide news about public service activities and events at the law school. Indeed, this is the last newsletter you will read focused exclusively on the Gates Public Service Law program. Next fall look forward to reading Gates PSL program news as well as UW Law-wide public service news in one bi-annual newsletter! Stay tuned…
Meanwhile as always, if you know of someone interested in law school and public service, we hope you'll send them our way. Applications for the next incoming class of Gates Scholars will be due January 15, 2011. For more information http://www.law.washington.edu/GatesScholar/ ).